Satellite Laser Ranging

Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) is a method to measure the distance to satellites or space debris by using very short laser pulses. Since 1982, IWF has operated one of world-leading SLR stations at the Lustbühel Observatory.

The Graz SLR station measures the distance to satellites up to an orbital height of 36000 kilometers. To certain targets - by using statistical analysis - it is possible to reach an accuracy of less than one millimeter. Currently, the station routinely measures the distances to more than 140 targets and uploads the data to various analysis centers within the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS). The measurements are the starting point for determining e.g. the rotational parameters, gravitation or the center of the Earth. As a result of the reliability and accuracy of its data the Graz SLR station was selected by ILRS as one of the five core stations worldwide.

Besides measuring satellites, the scientific emphasis of the Graz SLR station currently lies on distance measurements to space debris. Such measurements deliver valuable data to improve orbit predictions to space debris, which could significantly reduce the amount of necessary collision avoidance maneuvers.